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Agency's Web Site Out of Sync With Bush Plan
NY Times
by David E. Rosenbaum
Friday, March 25, 2005

 WASHINGTON -- As President Bush and his allies travel the country to promote his Social Security plan, they say individual investment accounts are a no-brainer, bound to result in more money at retirement than workers could expect from Social Security.

But someone at the Social Security Administration did not get the word.

In a Q. and A. on the agency's Web site meant to explain the retirement program, there is this exchange, which has apparently been there for years:

"Question: I think I could do better if you let me invest the Social Security I pay into an individual retirement plan (I.R.A.) or some other investment plan. What do you think?"

"Answer: Maybe you could, but then again, maybe your investments wouldn't work out. Remember these facts:

    * Your Social Security taxes pay for potential disability and survivors benefits as well as for retirement benefits.
    * Social Security incorporates social goals - such as giving more protection to families and to low-income workers - that are not part of private pension plans; and
    * Social Security benefits are adjusted yearly for increases in the cost of living - a feature not present in many private plans."

In the middle of the page at www.ssa.gov., toward the top, are "Questions about." From the drop-down menu, viewers can choose "Taxes and Social Security" and go to Question 18.

After he was shown the passage on Thursday, a White House spokesman, Trent Duffy, said: "The president is not talking about this approach. The president's approach is a voluntary account financed by a portion of a person's payroll taxes, and that account would have appropriate safeguards to guard against risks in the market."

Does he expect the Web site to be changed? "That's up to the Social Security Administration," Mr. Duffy said.

In the agency's press office, Mark Hinkle, said, "By and large, we have an informational Web site, not a political Web site."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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